Saturday, April 10, 2010

Battenkill'd and Busted.

What an adventure.  I'll try not to ramble, but the way today unfolded on the course almost requires a stream-of-consciousness approach.  First, the Tour of the Battenkill gets mad props for being a crazy, fun, dangerous, and well-oiled event.  Perfect for a spring classic.  On to the race report:

We arrived in Cambridge on Friday and I warmed up on the course a bit.  The first hard left turn was followed shortly by a covered bridge, seen here.  I'm just practicing the first bit of the course, because early reports indicated that the first climb (a few miles after the bridge) would be decisive, so I wanted to know what to expect.  Fortunately, the gravel that was present on the wood-floored bridge Friday was gone as we rocketed through on Saturday. 

On Saturday, we arrived at the event about an hour and a half before the start.  Plenty of time to kit up, warm up, and make some new friends at the start line.  I have to give a few shout outs here, especially to Jeremy, Dave, and Frank who took time to chat and make the race that much more interesting.  Dave actually recognized me from the blog and spoke kindly of it.  Big ups to Dave!

Sporting the CLM colors, I had a nice lady flag me down prior to the race to say she loved the kits.  Way to go, Mitch!  I went with the striped armwarmers for visibility in the feed zone.

The start was relatively uneventful, as the first km was neutral.  I ended up hovering in the top 30-40 just taking it easy to the covered bridge.  That went smoothly but soon the pace picked up.  However, the group was clearly saving energy for the first big climb:  Juniper Swamp Rd.  Rumor was that the race would split here and a select group of riders getting over this ridge first would stay together until the last climb when more splits would be made.  We still had a few miles to go until that turn, so really everyone was just trying to settle in.

Now, things got interesting for me. Within seconds of hanging a right onto the first dirt section (Rich Rd.), I hit 3 or 4 potholes and lost BOTH of my nearly full bottles.  Crap.  I feared the sweet, lightweight carbon cages would not stand up to the bumps, but that was just insane.  I was now without liquid and no way to get it until the 2nd feed zone at mile 41.  By the way, did I mention this happened in the 7th mile?  I'm not to too good with fancy math, but that seemed like a long time to go without fluid in a race.  Egads. 

Shortly, we took a hard left onto Juniper Swamp Rd., the second dirt section.  You might be able to see me on the right side of the group in the orange and black. 

I didn't know Jill and Sarah would be there to take this picture and cheer, but I definitely heard them shouting!  True to prediction, we lost several riders on the steep dirt climb.  Frank went over in the top 5, and I was in the top 20 and feeling fine.  The subsequent dirt downhill was hairy due to speed but smooth.

After Juniper Swamp, I regrouped and developed a plan to conserve as much as possible (even more that I already was) and doubled up on gels to compensate.  This worked well, and I was still in the pack as we approached a dreaded paved climb around mile 30.  At the bottom, two guys RIGHT in front of me locked handlebars and went down in a flash.  I had nowhere to go, so *DOINK* I ran right into them, performing a nice endo.  I stayed up, but was now holding still and clipped out while the peloton scurried up the hill.  Not good.  Sprinting up the hill, I felt the heat and heard the engine of the chase car, knowing that I needed to stay up and catch the group on the hill or I was permanently off.  I nearly got there by the top, but had to hop on a few wheels of other guys to finish the bridge.  Fortunately, we went off-road about then and I was able to make it back up as the group slowed.

Now in the pack and down 3 or 4 matches, I was still nervous about cramps.  At mile 35, we cruised through the town of Greenwich with a group now down to about 25 or 30.  On a sweeping left hand turn, the guy to my left hit a pothole and launched his bottle into my path.  Was this karma for my two bottles earlier?  I didn't have time to think about that as, try as I might to avoid it, I hit it square with my front tire. 

*aside*  I would love to have seen the spectators faces at this moment.  Cheering as they were, I thought I heard a deep gasp from several onlookers as I pulled what must have looked like a BMX tabletop-fakie-kickstand move before recovering and sprinting to catch the group.  Wow.

Within a mile of that madness, I went to shift for an easier gear and felt a strange sensation through the right-hand shifter.  Kind of a clunk / shred.  My pedaling became strained and I could not shift to an easier gear.  Rats, derailleur cable failure.  I'd noticed some funky shifting over the past week, but it had been perfect after some adjusting earlier today.  Now, I was 5 miles from the feed zone and debating dropping out.  Knowing the profile (big hills to come), I was a dead duck.  Combine that with the fluid deficit I'd accumulated, and I was suspecting a struggle once the fast boys turned it up. 

As I approached the feed zone, I drifted to the back of our group and pulled over.  Jill was bamboozled as I was seemingly looking fine, but I explained the malfunction as I pulled the shredded cable out of the housing.  Race over.  I watched as the group rolled up the road.

But, I cannot complain.  Dodging a wreck, surviving a water bottle collision, and actually making it 41 miles with zero fluid (well, maybe I got a sip at the start) is quite a bit of racing fortune.  Sure, it would be nice to finish, but some things are just not to be, at least not this year...

After the race, we headed to Woodstock for a great dinner with Coach and her sis, Sarah.  These two have supported me quite a bit over this adventure, and it has made the difference.  A parting shot from the pizza joint in Woodstock:
Don't worry, this blog is not dead.  I'll take some time to think of my next steps, and Battenkill 2.0 might be the project.  I've loved the journey, and am so very happy to have participated in the race. 

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 9, 2010


The title has a few meanings.  Obviously, we're here.  By here, I mean in Upstate NY and within a quick drive of the starting line of the 2010 Tour of the Battenkill.  What started as a "what if?" conversation months ago is now feeling very real. 

We rolled into Cambridge, NY around 2pm only to realize that rider sign-in was to start at 3pm.  So, to kill some time, we drove bits of the course.  After about 15 minutes of that, I got too excited and just had to ride some.  It was a good thing, as I'd been off the bike for 3.5 days.  I'd intended to spin around NYC yesterday, but that seemed increasingly suicidal the longer we were there.  I rode sections of Eagleville Rd. and the big hill on Juniper Swamp Rd., and I'm here to say that Juniper Swamp is no joke.  Sure, you can climb it, but I anticipate that the hot dogs will be cranking on that sucker tomorrow, trying to split the group.  Even on my older 23c tires, I could climb out of the saddle without problem.  That is probably because the dirt is wet after yesterday's rain. 

By the way, I just got a text from Jill - she ran to the train station in Saratoga Springs to pick up her sister -it's snowing outside.  Unreal.   I can't help but think of Jill's half-marathon in Orlando a few months ago.  On the morning of her race, the winds picked up and the temps dropped.  Snow, sleet, and freezing rain fell on her and Shelly as they completed the daunting 13.1 miles.  Is it possible that she (or I, or we) take snow to the events we attend?  Scary to think about.

It's supposed to fair off, however, and temps will likely be up into the mid-50's by the time I toe the line at 1:30.  Perfect.  Just me and 100+ of my closest Cat 4 friends.  The goals remain the same:  stay upright, finish, and in the top 30%.  I won't be too shattered if I don't get that last one, because this race is sure to be full of all kinds of craziness that I can't control.  Despite that little interlude of futility just now, I plan to leave it all out there.  The CLM would do nothing less.  

The new tires are mounted, the shifting is crisp, the cheat sheet (athletic tape with critical course marks stuck to the top tube) is in place, and the nutrition is in process. 

Now, it's time to chill out, watch TV and think about the good things in life:  my family, my friends, and the fortune that is mine - that I can take time and energy and put it towards a goal like this.  I'm a lucky guy.

Until tomorrow, my friends.  Watch Jill's facebook for status updates as she'll be dashing around the course in full-on support mode.  Like I said, I'm a lucky guy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ritual and The Road

Prior to leaving on our trip to the northeast, I completed my usual pre-race ritual.  This primarily includes going over the bike, from tip to tail.  The point is to minimize the chance for 'controllable' issues.  Once I'm on-course at  Battenkill, there will be many things I cannot control, but bike maintenance is not one of those things.  I added a new chain as well, which has already improved my shifting.  I plan to properly break it in tomorrow on the streets of NYC.

The hard training rides are done, the statistics have been crunched, and now the consternation begins.  I'll spend tomorrow relaxing in the city with Sarah and Jill, but my mind will want to wander to the race start, the first hills, and the mad dash through the covered bridge. 

I've got my new set of Conti Gatorskin Hardshell tires, and am excited to give them a try.  I went with size 25 for extra grip on the steep ascents and for a little extra cush on the gravel descents.   See, my heartrate is already going up...

After a two-day (and very scenic) trip from W-S through the Shenandoah valley and now to NYC, Coach and I are staying with her sister about two blocks from Grand Central.  The view is killer, and the city is alive.  More later, with pics from the city and our upcoming trip to Saratoga Springs and Cambridge, NY on Friday.